Julie Chevalier’s Linen Tough as History

Julie Chevalier, Linen Tough as History (Puncher & Wattmann 2012)

1lthI just couldn’t get on this book’s wavelength. I appreciate the cleverness of many of the poems, but very few of them speak to me personally. I’m glad I read it to the end, because the poems I most respond to occurred in the final section: ‘crease’, about enduring tensions between mother and daughter; ‘fifteen kinds of infidelity’, which is what it says on the tin; ‘the moon and the stars were our chandelier’, which lives up to its excellent title.

A number of the poems are self-described ‘responses’ to other poems or works of art. ‘Corner of Glebe Point Road and Broadway’ and ‘the day we almost hung’, for example, play with Gwen Harwood’s ‘Suburban Sonnet’ and Frank O’Hara’s ‘The Day Lady Died’ respectively, each line (with one exception in each case) ending with the same word as that line in the earlier poem. It’s clever, and fun, but the effect each time was to send me back to the earlier poem, in whose light the present poem seemed a pallid, arbitrary thing. Similarly, when I read the poems responding to work by Ron Muecke, Diane Arbus, Cy Twombly, Hans Bellmer and Giorgio Morandi, I went to those works, either in memory or by Google, and felt no particular urge to come back. Maybe that’s a problem inherent to ekphrastic poetry, or – more likely – there’s something I’m not getting.

awwbadge_2013 This is the sixth book I’ve read as part of the Australian Women Writers Challenge 2013, but I won’t add this post to the website, as it’s not really a review – more a note that I’ve read the book.

2 responses to “Julie Chevalier’s Linen Tough as History

  1. That’s interesting that you didn’t like Linen Tough as History. I love it! You can read my post about it here, http://www.rhiannonhall.blogspot.com.au/2012/07/linen-tough-as-history-julie-chevalier.html.


  2. Thanks for commenting, Rhiannon, and especially thanks for disagreeing. I like your post, and hope anyone who comes here will go there. Your comments of ‘ms marbig No 26 16’ makes it seem very likely that I’m the problem here, because I missed the rage altogether – and I think your reading is preferable to mine. (But I still feel the poem my own less preferable way.)


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